Sports leagues are launching new digital events and competitions to connect audiences with their name and brand — even if it means viewers won’t always be watching the sport itself.
Why it matters: Leagues are seeking out a newer and younger audience to gain more ground in our ever-more-online daily lives.
Details: The NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE announced a new video game league, Tuesday Night Gaming , that will feature real-world NFL legends and YouTube gamers competing against each other in different video games every week.
- The NFL is teaming with Enthusiast Gaming. It will have teams competing head-to-head across popular video game titles in a regular-season format.
- The full roster of gamers plus video games has not been announced.
State of play: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are launching the TGL golf little league with the PGA Tour, which will have virtual courses and a tech-infused venue. The goal of the league is to present golf to a younger audience that has so much of its attention in the digital space, league officials said.
- The NBA has the NBA 2K League, where NBA teams have esports teams that compete in video games. The league just wrapped up its fifth season.
- The NBA also recently teamed up with the company Sorare to create a new fantasy sports league based around NFTs.
- In addition to creating Tuesday Night time Gaming , the NFL is working with EA Sports for the “Madden NFL” video game to host competitions throughout the year. NFL players often reference ” Madden ” in interviews.
Zoom out: For the NFL, the “TNG” shift is about finding a new target audience, Joe Ruggiero, the NFL senior vice president of consumer products, told Axios. An untapped audience for the NFL is on Twitch, YouTube and social media, he said.
- The goal, Ruggiero says, is not to convince NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE superfans to watch video games. It’s to find a new way for gamers to connect with the league — even if that means they’re watching NFL players play “Super Mario” instead of watching the Super Bowl.
What they’re saying: “Video gaming is incredibly important for how we engage with our fans and especially young fans, ” Ruggiero said in a phone interview. “We saw an opportunity to create this program to really engage a different element of the gaming audience. ”
Professional sports leagues are progressively shifting online and trying to reach digital viewers, Enthusiast Gaming president Bill Kara and COO Eric Bernofsky told Axios.
- “There’s a natural bridge between sports and gaming because of that competitive nature, ” Bernofsky said. “So what you’re seeing sports do now is bridge right into that digital universe. ”
Reality check: Older sports followers won’t necessarily tune in to watch NFL players and legends play video games, or to see Tiger Woods on a virtual golf course.
- Both Bernofsky and Kara tell Axios that’s OK since the aim isn’t to convince NFL TV viewers to view NFL “TNG” on Twitch.
- “There’s a whole generation of people that gaming is their dominant form of entertainment, ” Bernofsky told Axios. “They’ve grown up and they are completely comfortable in that environment. ”